THAILAND OPEN R32 – Ponnappa and Rankireddy cause first mixed upset

Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy offed the first seeded mixed pair at the 2019 Thailand Open, beating Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying in three close games. […]

Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy offed the first seeded mixed pair at the 2019 , beating Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying in three close games.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Bangkok.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

After two straight semi-final finishes, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured below) may have fancied their chances of finally avoiding one of the world’s top two pairs.  Beaten in both Indonesia and Japan by China’s Wang/Huang, they were drawn in the opposite half from the world #2 pair this week, before world #1 Zheng/Huang withdrew on the eve of the tournament.

But that wasn’t enough to pave their way to a final, as they met their match on Wednesday in their opener against Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy (pictured right).  The Indians had beaten them in the mixed team final of the Commonwealth Games last year and felt they could come up with the winning formula against the Malaysians again.

Still, the victory was anything but straightforward.  The Indian pair took the first game but never managed a lead in the second.  They were down 5-11 in the decider until an 8-point run put them back in the driver’s seat.

Ashwini Ponnappa was clear on the secret to her team’s victory: “I think it was up and down because I wasn’t really serving too well today,” she said after the match.  “It was amazing how Satwik stepped up.  He literally stepped up and I don’t think I did anything else on court apart from yelling today.  He was the one covering and hitting almost 85% of the strokes.  I was just yelling every time we got a point.  I think I did that well.

“I think he was very level-headed today.  I was a bit up and down emotionally but he managed to communicate with me and just basically take charge of the match.  All credit to this guy here.”

“I think we are pretty confident about playing with them,” said Satwik.  “Last time when we played it was a very tough match so we can see that our opponents are under pressure and they are giving away so many easy points so we are thinking how to play positive so they will give so many points to us.  We played safe today, not with any risky shots, just kept on playing, kept on playing.  They were playing with a lot of pressure because every time we play with them it is very tough-tough, close-close.  I could see them – they were shivering – so I felt like they had no plan to play so I thought this is the time to play our game full and free.”

“I think we have played them a couple of times and it’s always neck-and-neck so that definitely gives them a lot of pressure,” added Ashwini.  “Plus it’s been a tough two weeks.  Two back-to-back semis is not easy.  Couple that with the fact that today [Satwik] really dominated and he was extremely confident from the beginning. Satwik just saw the gaps from the beginning and managed to put the shuttle there and anticipate quite a bit.”

On their upcoming match with Alfian Eko Prasetya / Marsheilla Gischa Islami of Indonesia, Ashwini said, “We haven’t played them so that’s probably going to be a tricky match.  [Today’s] was definitely a more comfortable match because we’ve played them a couple of times and they’ve been playing out there in the top so you’re constantly watching them and you kind of have an idea as to what their game is like but with these guys, we’re not too sure what to expect so we have to prepare quite well.”

This partnership has shown promise for over a year but they still aren’t on a definite upward trajectory in terms of results or ranking.  Satwik explained, “I was off for four months and I feel like I’m playing much better than before.  I was resting for four months so I was seeing all the players playing on court and I was learning so many things from the off time to watch everyone’s play so I’m pretty confident now I can play better

“We need to be more consistent, like the way we played today, we won’t play the next day.  Every tournament, we upset one pair but we won’t win any tournament.”

Despite the closeness of their first round match today, Ashwini insists that she and her partner have even more trouble against the lower-ranked pairs.  This hypothesis will be put to the test when they face the world #27 tomorrow for a spot in the quarter-finals.

On an adjacent court to the Malaysian upset was the first ousting of a seeded men’s singles player.  Chen Long had lost to Wang Tzu Wei (pictured left) before but today marked the first time the two players had finished a match in just two games.  This one went to the Chinese Taipei shuttler, who will thus be the one to advance to play Ng Ka Long on Thursday.

Click here for complete Wednesday results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net